When approaching the Swedish capital by sea, spare a thought for the captain. It can't be easy to carefully navigate the narrow channels of the Stockholm Archipelago—channels densely dotted with somewhere in the region of 30,000 islands. Many of these islands are little more than granite outcrops inhabited only by seabirds. Some have thriving communities year round, but many more see their populations rocket in the warmer months when ferry service from the city resumes and Stockholmers escape to spend time at their summer homes and on their boats.
The larger islands have distinct personalities: Sandhamn, for instance, becomes a major sailing hub, its harbor packed with yachts, while Grinda has a famous värdshus—an old-fashioned inn—where people come for dinner and to spend the night. Whatever time of year you visit, the journey through the archipelago to reach Stockholm—which is itself composed of 14 interconnected islands—is always spectacular, and helps you understand why Stockholm’s residents are so proud and protective of this area of outstanding natural beauty.